Ernest Mancoba - New Now London Tuesday, July 13, 2021 | Phillips

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  • 'The artist of today is isolated in spite of himself, because of his search for spiritual integrity within a society all devoted to the satisfaction of material needs as its first priority. Nevertheless he is in harmony across space and time with the ancient world and artists, in his awareness that spiritual and material values have to be reconciled.'
    —Ernest Mancoba

    Completed in Paris during the latter half of his career, the present work by Ernest Mancoba exemplifies the confidence and fluency of the artist in his favoured medium of watercolour. As is typical of his practice, Untitled occupies the liminal space between abstraction and figuration, where form is alluded through energetic lines of dark ink and loose, vibrant strokes of colour.

    Born in Boksburg, South Africa in 1904, Mancoba went on to be regarded as a pioneer of 20th Century Modernism, a forerunner of Abstract Expressionism, and an active participant in the COBRA avant-garde movement from 1948. The artist was wholly occupied with the establishment of a synthesis between African visual language and European artistic expression, in response to the cultural flux of 20th Century modernisation. In this endeavour he was joined by other artists including Nimrod Njabulo Ndebele and Gerard Sekoto as part of the ‘New African’ intellectual movement.i Mancoba’s influences were extremely varied, from South African textiles to European iconography, but his turn towards abstraction upon leaving South Africa can be seen as a direct influence of artists such as Karel Appel, Constant Nieuwenhuys, Asger Jorn, and Sonja Ferlov, his future wife, with whom he collaborated during his time in Paris and Copenhagen.

    Despite his eminence in these movements and considerable contribution to the development of a synesthetic artistic expression, Mancoba has been largely overlooked historically and regarded as a peripheral figure. In his work he sought to examine and overcome the points of conflict that he saw as inherent to both his identity and his sources of inspiration. The binaries of white and black, insider and outsider, primitive and modern, material and spiritual, are all present and arguably transcended through his work. It is deeply unfortunate that, “in part due to the rampant racism in South Africa during Mancoba's lifetime, his legacy as an artist is tragically under-acknowledged.’ii


    i Ntongela Masilela, Ernest Mancoba: A New African Artist, Claremont, Los Angeles, 2005, p. 3
    ii Priscilla Frank, Revisiting The Radically Avant-Garde Movement Art History Forgot, HuffPost US 01/09/2015, online 

    • Provenance

      The Estate Ferlov Mancoba
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Copenhagen, Galerie Mikael Andersen, Ernest Mancoba, Wonga Mancoba, Sonja Ferlov Mancoba, 11 November - 17 December 2011
      New York, Aicon Gallery, Ernest Mancoba, 23 - 28 April 2017



ink and watercolour on paper
42 x 29.5 cm (16 1/2 x 11 5/8 in.)
Executed circa 1965.

Full Cataloguing

£5,000 - 7,000 

Sold for £10,080

Contact Specialist

Simon Tovey
Head of New Now Sale
+44 20 7318 4084

New Now

London Auction 13 July 2021